Snow Leopard Features Suggest It’s a Touchscreen OS


If you’ve got one of Axiotron’s awesome Modbooks, and you’re running Snow Leopard, you may have already stumbled across a few features that make your Mac so much easier to use. It’s unlikely Apple (s aapl) had Axiotron in mind when it included these features, though, so what’s the real story here?

Cult of Mac believes the features confirm Apple’s intent to release an OS X-based tablet device sometime in the near future (or near enough that Snow Leopard will still be relevant, at least). And when you consider the signs, its hard to believe that isn’t what the company is planning.

First, there’s Exposé in the Dock. The Dock itself is already built for fingertip usage, and to have it included in Exposé is just icing on the cake. Stacks Grid view, with its nice, large, oh-so-pressable icons, which now also includes scrolling and subfolder navigation, is a definite touchscreen plus. Also, being able to adjust icon size using a slider right at the bottom of every Finder window is a great accessibility option, but even more so if you consider the possibility of wanting to make those icons even more fingertip friendly.

Finally, Cult of Mac points out the feather in the cap of the touchscreen argument — a built-in, scalable on-screen virtual keyboard. As someone who uses a Wacom Cintiq 12WX regularly with my Mac, and sometimes without the aid of keyboard or mouse, I’ve long used OS X’s Keyboard Viewer (available as an option in the Input Menu) to hunt and peck type with my stylus. That feature gets a much-needed upgrade in Snow Leopard, since it becomes fully resizable. In fact, Keyboard Viewer is now capable of displaying keys larger than the MacBook Pro’s hardware keyboard.


In Snow Leopard, Keyboard and Character Viewer have both been moved from the International preferences pane to the Keyboard menu, which makes a lot more sense in general, but especially if you consider the Keyboard Viewer an input tool and not just a keypress indicator for screencasts, as the old, less functional version seemed to be.


The lack of officially supported hardware will make it hard to dig much deeper into Snow Leopard’s touchscreen secrets. For all we know, it could support multitouch gestures similar to those usable with the trackpad right now, out of the box. People with Modbooks might be able to uncover some other touch-friendly refinements, and I know I’ll be poking around with my Wacom stylus to see what else I can find, but only Apple knows the true extent of Snow Leopard’s touchscreen prowess.